Get involved. Every voice counts! - Amitabh Kumar, Centre for Social Research (CSR)
Amitabh Kumar is Head of Media and Communication at the New Delhi, India-based Centre for Social Research.He is one of CSR’s gender trainers working with Indian companies and government agencies to ensure gender equality where empowering women, protecting and ensuring women’s rights and understanding social issues from a gender perspective are the
1. What was the inspiration behind the founding of Centre for Social Research? What are its objectives?
CSR was founded in 1983 by a group of then student activists from the Jawahar Lal Nehru University. We are dedicated to creating a violence-free, gender-just society through social research, capacity building and advocacy.
2. What is your modus operandi and how do you reach out to the women of India? There are scores of them who would need your help, right?
In our earliest years, CSR worked to bring attention and justice to all marginalised and underprivileged areas of society. One of our first formal projects, supported by the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission, involved a study on the impact of higher education upon the SC/ST youth of Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, another early area of research focused on the working and living conditions of urban rickshaw drivers. Our initial advisory board included both international and local leaders in the social sciences.
Over the years, gender gradually emerged as a cross-cutting phenomena that colours and shapes the social relations within and between all sectors and groups in India. Since shifting our core focus to issues related to gender, CSR has emerged as one of the most influential and leading institutions working in the field of informed social action and action-oriented research.
3. What are the obstacles that your foundation faces in its efforts?
As India strides through globalization we see a change social issues, which in turn reflect on the nature of obstacles faced by organizations like ours. When we started our efforts back in 1983 there was a need to establish a network of trust in the communities where we were working. Over the years through positive case studies and our work in the crisis intervention centre’s (http://crisisinterventioncentre.org/ ) we have been able to over come this major step. Now our focus is on getting state machinery to function which is a mammoth task with many variables. As India is a young democracy our society is still learning the procedures of civil life. So we also play a role in informing our communities about the duties of a citizen.
4. How can the general public help you in your efforts and endeavours?
One of the major areas of our work is the generating of awareness. We believe that information is the first step towards empowerment. We are constantly raising awareness in the field and the virtual arena through our online portals and social media platforms. Creating a cycle of ‘ Information ‘ leading to ‘ Interaction ‘ through which the general public becomes ‘ Involved ‘ in the movement and takes ‘ Ownership ‘ of it, which over a time period turns them into ‘ Catalyst of Change ‘ . So in my opinion the first step would be to inform oneself and the more we get informed the more they will be empowered to work towards change.
5. How difficult is it to entrench the notion of gender equality in the minds of the members of society? How can it be done more effectively?
The importance of ‘Gender’ and its social construct is being realized in India at a rapid level. A lot of credit goes to the civil society organizations but an equal amount of work had been done by the amazing people who envisioned ‘post independence’ India to be a country which is democratic & built on the notion of gender equality. We have achieved the first major aspect of ensuring ‘Gender ‘becomes a priority topic for the country. Now we need to work towards implementing it in our day to day life. Starting from family, (which still finds its structures submerged in patriarchy ) to look into the education system ( which can help in engendering the thought process of our young citizens ) who can then in turn shape policies which will guide our country towards achieving a gender just society.
6. What are the main causes for women and children, which CSR works upon?
Our four interdependent departments work together in every issue and area we tackle, from eradicating female foeticide to engendering governance. By coordinating our efforts in grassroots mobilization, capacity building, action-oriented research and policy-level intervention—and through networking with national, regional and global institutional partners—we work toward making change in all sectors and levels of society.
7. What are some important milestones achieved and what are your future goals or plans for CSR?
Centre for social research has achieved many awards & has been honoured by many governments both India & foreign for its work. We are a nodal agency in south Asia & have played an advisory role in all major policy decisions made in the field of gender. I see another major achievement of our organization as incubators for young activists, over the past 30 years we have trained & empowered young professionals who have carried on to setup their own organizations or taken up leadership positions in esteemed places like the United Nation’s, ILO , EU.
8. What would be your message to our large community of women at Glad2baWoman?
Get involved, every one voice counts. Start with yourself look into how gender matters to you, your family, your surroundings. Once we start engaging with the cause it organically grows & develops its own momentum, what seems as a large task in the beginning, can be achieved step by step through patience and persistence.